CHICAGO – Chalk up starting pitcher Travis Wood’s recent struggles to bad matchups.
At least that’s what Cubs manager Dale Sveum believes despite another rough outing Friday against the St. Louis Cardinals. For the second time in six days, St. Louis feasted on Wood’s mistakes as the Cardinals outslugged the Cubs en route to a 9-6 win.
Wood dropped his third straight decision after allowing eight runs on seven hits, including five home runs, in five innings. He became the first starting pitcher in major league baseball history to surrender a home run in each of the first five innings, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Wood also tied the franchise record for homers allowed in a game, becoming the fifth pitcher and first since Carlos Zambrano, to allow five homers, tying his meltdown in Atlanta on Aug. 11.
“It’s hard for him to go out there because he doesn’t throw curveballs and stuff, and against that lineup it’s tough when you don’t have something soft against that right-handed lineup,” Sveum said. “He does have to keep the ball down, too, but you’re going to get away with that a little more with other teams. This team, there’s a reason why those left-handed numbers are what they are with this team. You make a mistake, they don’t miss it.”
Wood (4-6) especially struggled against the Nos. 3 through 7 hitters of the lineup. Each hit a home run and combined to drive in seven of the Cardinals’ nine runs.
“I missed some pitches and they didn’t miss the pitches that I missed,” Wood said. “They hit them out of the park.
“It’s a great team over there. You just can’t do that.”
Although Wood has been tagged for 23 runs in his past 152⁄3 innings, he knows he is not as bad as the numbers indicate. From June 19 to July 6, Wood won four straight decisions and allowed only four total runs in those four outings.
“It’s nice that I did after these past three because you can look back and be like, ‘I know I can still do this,’ ” Wood said of his good stretch. “The confidence is still there. But at the end of the day it’s what you did that day, so we’ve just got to learn from this one and get ready for the next one.”
The Cubs (40-58) tried to keep pace with the Cardinals (54-46) and managed to match them through three innings. Anthony Rizzo’s sixth homer of the year, a towering two-run long ball, punctuated a three-run first inning as the Cubs led 3-1. Even after the Cardinals responded with a four-run second, they managed three runs in the third to tie the score at 6.
But starter Lance Lynn (13-4) and the St. Louis bullpen quieted their bats. Starlin Castro’s eighth-inning leadoff single marked the Cubs’ first hit since the third. The heart of the Cubs’ lineup – Castro, Rizzo and Alfonso Soriano – combined for six of their 10 total hits.
“They’re coming in swinging,” catcher Geovany Soto said. “ … It’s a tough lineup to face, but just try to keep the ball down. But it’s one of those days it was slugging out there. Just got to come tomorrow and be ready for it again.”